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The 4-7-8 breathing practice can help activate your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and digestion, and can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and improve lung function.
The exercise involves inhaling through your nose to a count of 4, holding your breath to a count of 7, and then exhaling through your mouth to a count of 8.
Researchers in Thailand published a study in July that found that the 4-7-8 breathing technique helps lower your heart rate and blood pressure. However, this “relaxing breathing” technique was first popularized in the Western world by integrative medicine specialist Dr. Andrew Weil in 2015.
“The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is absolutely simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment, and can be done anywhere,” says Dr. Weil on his website. “Sit up straight as you learn the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth and keep it there throughout the exercise”.
“There is some evidence that 4-7-8 breathing helps reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression and insomnia when comparing before and after the interventionJoshua Tal, a New York State clinical psychologist tells CNN.
In fact, Tal explains that this practice does not have a magical effect to put us to sleep, but rather it can reduce anxiety to increase the probability of falling asleep.
This is how you do it:
• Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound.
• Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose while mentally counting to four.
• Exhale fully through your mouth making a whooshing sound for a count of eight.
• Repeat this breathing cycle three more times for a total of four cycles.
Weil adds that if you’re having trouble holding your breath while counting to seven, you can speed up the count for a while until your body adjusts.
Also, it is important to note his recommendation to place the tip of the tongue against the ridge of tissue behind the upper front teeth, while exhaling through the mouth around the tongue.
“This breathing exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system,” he explains. “Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it, but gains power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day.”
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